Bubbles, bubbles everywhere!

It’s all Ok Prosecco isn’t going anywhere!

img_3847

Well I met the wine-man himself and I don’t know what possessed me (probably 2 glasses of pink British bubbly and a glass of Greenock shiraz) but I attempted to ask the God of wine writers, Hugh Johnson, about a British equivalent to replace Prosecco, especially as I’d heard us Brits were drinking the region dry. He gave me a sympathetic look of, ‘Dear girl, it’s all ok’ and reassured me, ‘There’s quite a way to go’.

Our brainstorm (ok our two minute chat, ok me rambling to him about British bubbles -allow me a little indulgence), left me thinking perhaps Prosecco isn’t going anywhere but there’s some worthy homegrown fizz to check out to shake up the Prosecco scene (see below). As I was about to leave he said, ‘or pink Prosecco?’ Now there’s a thought. Take a good thing and turn it pink! I think he’s onto something.

img_3828-1

Eco bubbles
‘Herbert Hall, Kent, One of few organic wine growers making good (if quite dry, high-acid) sparkling from Champagne varieties.* Click here for stockists.

Think pink

Heath Estate, Kent, One of England’s best. Impressive vinyards near Staplehurst, only Champagne varieties’*. Their Balfour brut rose gets a ‘best’ in Hugh Johnson’s pocket wine book and I believe this fizz is the culprit for leading me to ask the man himself for a selfie. £35.99, available from Waitrose

Quality and quantity

‘Bolney wine estate, West Sussex, Est 1972, now 2nd generation making good sparkling and still’*. Go large, the magnum of Blanc de Blanc 09 with 5 yrs bottle age makes it into Hugh’s recommendations. Easier to get hold of is the 2010, £26.99 from www.bolneywineestate.com

HUGH’S BOOK

For endless sparkles of wine-wisdom and a charming read for any food and wine lover, delve into Hugh Johnson on Wine, Good bits from 55 years of wine scribbling, RRP £20.

*Quote from, Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book 2017, RRP £11.99. A must for those in the trade.

SSSsssshh! SHOOT SECRETS

What can I say, any form of fizz doesn’t hang around long in Britalian Kitchen. Bring in the cold tea, soda water, tonic (that I found under the stairs) , a straw and Alka-seltzer:

img_3863

Advertisements

Tomato update!

Elena crop

So back in May while Elena got more cuddles than the most cuddled person ever. I jumped to work to help Uncle Mario plant the tomato seedlings. I have no idea why, but this caused  much amusement amongst Giuseppe’s family (probably something along the lines of….’crazy English woman – she’s meant to be relaxing’).

Tomato plants

I pushed in the holes using a homemade wooden planter tool-thingy. I don’t know a lot about gardening (as you may have guessed) but he must have turned the earth religiously as it was really easy – super satisfying work.

I was thinking I was doing him a massive favour, when I was called for, ‘Latte! Latte!’ – unfortunately not as in the Costa-type but as in to feed the bambino. I told him I’d be back in 10 minutes. I came running back to find he’d finished. Not sure he really needed any of my ‘help’.

Anyway we’ve had an update! I think it means the plants are doing well!

Check out Mama Romeo’s recipe for Simple Italian tomato salad

 

 

 

Peas and cheese please!

What! The tomato field is bare?! Usually a visit to Italy in balmy August or September means Mama Romeo’s and Uncle Mario’s tomatoes are deep red and ripe for the picking. We went in May this year and I was too busy counting nappies and packing porridge to think about the change of seasons.

cheesy pics

As tomatoes are the King of summer in Italy, peas are where it’s at in Spring. I would love to poetically say, we ate all the fresh flavours of Spring and nibbled on freshly podded raw peas and broad beans but the Italian’s know better than that, there was also an abundance of …. cheese, cheese, cheese and more cheese! Most likely because they think it’s bloody cold in May! (us Brits were in shorts and T-shirts – but that’s a whole other post).

So I slurped up broth-style pea soups, and gorged on omelettes – loaded with stringy mozzarella and hot deep-fried potato polpette – loaded with er… stringy mozzarella!

This was one of my favourite dishes  – so simple but oh so tasty (serve with plenty of Parmesan!)

Pasta e piselli

1tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
350g fresh or frozen peas
Small bunch parsley, chopped
350g pasta shells (a few peas will fall into some of the shells – like they’re in a little pod of pasta! Little things…)
4 slices prosciutto
Grated Parmesan, to serve

FullSizeRender (14)

1 Heat the olive oil over a medium-low heat, add the onion and cook until softened. Stir through the peas and add 1 L of boiling water. Return to the boil, then add the pasta.

2 Simmer for 10 minutes or until the pasta is cooked to your liking. Stir occasionally (add a little more boiling water and loosely cover if the liquid is evaporating too quickly). One minute before the end of cooking time, stir through most of the parsley. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

3 Meanwhile, cook the prosciutto (in batches if necessary). Place a dry griddle-pan over a medium heat, add the prosciutto and cook for 3-5 minutes until darkened and crispy.

4 Ladle the pasta, peas and broth into 4 bowls, sprinkle generously with the Parmesan, top with the crispy prosciutto and garnish with the remaining parsley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WWW: Wonderful world of weaning

 

We’ve gone for baby-led weaning* in a big way in our house. Good food, one meal for everyone with as little effort as possible. Yes please!

HOLIDAY FUN!

P1030152

On a recent trip to Italy Elena caused quite a stir. She became known as, ‘The baby that eats everything!’ and ‘The baby that feeds herself!’ Baby-led weaning hasn’t quite hit remote towns in Southern Italy. As she picked up strips of frittata, I was met with a few ‘Madonna! Madonna’s!’ and looks of utter horror but, to my relief, it changed throughout the two weeks to amazement, and utter pride from Nonna. Elena even started to get an audience. She didn’t seem to mind (or should I say notice – she was too busy eating!).

RECIPE

I can’t get enough of Gill Rapley & Tracey Murkett’s The Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook . The recipes are fantastic but it’s also great if you’re creating your own and want to check if a certain ingredient is ok.

Here’s their Simple broccoli quiche.

unnamed-1

1 medium head broccoli (florets only)
250g shortcrust pastry (see Cook’s Tip)/ or use a readymade pastry case
1 small onion
3 grilled rashers of bacon, chopped (optional)
50-100g grated cheese (according to taste)
3 eggs
115ml (4floz) milk
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

1 Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/Gas Mark 5. Cut the broccoli into small florets and steam or boil for 2 minutes until just tender and drain.

2 To prepare your pastry case, either line a 23cm (9in) lightly greased pie/tart tin with pastry (or use a readymade pastry case). Spread the onion in the bottom of the pastry case. Add the broccoli (and bacon, if using) and sprinkle half of the cheese over it.

3 Beat together the eggs and milk and add the black pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the onion, broccoli and cheese, then sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. (The egg mixture should come at least 3 quarters of the way up the pastry case. If it doesn’t add another egg, beaten with 2tbsp milk)

4 Bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes, until the egg is cooked through (test with a skewer) and the pastry is golden brown. Serve warm, sliced or in fingers, with new potatoes and either salad, green beans or asparagus for a main meal, or eat it cold for a light lunch.

unnamed-2

Cook’s Tip

I also like to use ready-rolled pastry for this too. To make the pastry from scratch use 85g diced butter, 165g plain flour. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Using a cold blunt knife, stir in 1-2 tbsp water a few drops at a time with a criss-cross cutting motion. Stop when the mixture starts to clump together. Gather into one lump and knead it lightly for a few seconds, until it forms a dough.

*Here’s a PDF from the NHS website about weaning – it includes a small paragraph on baby-led weaning. There’s a little more detailed info about it here on the NCT website.

 

 

Pizza sweetie?

How could I walk past this ‘sweet’ pizza in Poundland? And in its own mini takeaway box!

pizzacrop1

To make me feel better about scoffing all those sweets and to balance up the naff/cool stakes – here’s a super trendy starter just crying out to be served up in those pizza boxes.

Cauliflower crust mini pizzas

Whizz the florets (about 600g) of 1 medium cauliflower in a food processor until it is a breadcrumb consistency. Microwave, covered, on high for 7-8 mins. Cool. Mix in 125g grated mozzarella, 3tbsp grated Parmesan. Pat into 6 x 6′ rounds on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 180ºC, 160ºC fan, gas 4 for 18-22 mins until golden. Spread 1/2tbsp pasata over each base. Top with torn mozzarella and black olives. Turn up the oven to 220ºC, 200ºC, fan 6. Bake for a further 10 mins. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Leave for 10 mins to cool slightly. Use a pallet knife to remove from the sheets.

Cook’s Tip

These will last for up to 3 days in the fridge, warm through for 10 mins before serving.

#37 FOOD NEWS: Test shoot teaser

Lemoncello meringue cake

Test shoots are a great way to get experimenting! Baked alaska, come lemon meringue pie, come a cheeky dash of Italian Liqueur. This was one of those ideas that sounded great on paper but would it actually work?! The answer is thankfully, yes! The best bit is, you can prepare the sponge and lemon lemon layer way ahead. I can’t wait to see it when proper food photographer, Adrian Lawrence gets his hands on it!

37overhead meringue crop

Serves: 8-10
Prep: 30 mins, plus chilling and cooling
Cook: 25 mins

37Ingreds crop

4 lemons, juice and zest
290g unsalted butter, cubed
465g caster sugar
6 large eggs, plus 3 large egg whites
6 gelatine leaves
45ml shot limoncello (optional)
1tsp vanilla extract
115g self-raising flour
3/4 tsp baking powder

1 Grease a 1L Pyrex bowl with oil, then line with cling film, so the edges hang over the sides. Squeeze the lemon juice into a small microwavable  bowl and add the lemon zest.

37squeezed lemon

Add 175g of the butter and 175g of the caster sugar. Mix well.

37lemon curd design

2 Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for 5 mins.

3 Meanwhile, heat the lemon mixture in the microwave on full power for 3 mins, stirring every 30 seconds, until the butter and sugar has melted.

4 Gradually add 4 beaten eggs, whisking continuously. Microwave on full power for a further 1 1/2 mins. Whisk well. Allow to cool for 1 minute, then return to the microwave and heat on full power for a further minute. Whisk well. Remove 3tbsp of the mixture, cover, and set aside.

5 Squeeze out the excess water from the gelatine leaves and place in a measuring jug. Pour over 200ml of just boiled water. Stir until the gelatine has dissolved. Top up with 150ml cold water. Gradually pour into the lemon mix, whilst continuously stirring. Stir in the limoncello, if using. Pour into the lined Pyrex bowl. Chill for at least 4 hours, until set.

6 For the sponge base, preheat the oven to 170’C, 150’C fan, gas 3. Grease and line an 18cm loose-bottomed sandwich tin. Beat the remaining butter with 115g of the caster sugar. Add 2 eggs one at a time beating well in between each addition. Fold through the flour and baking powder. Spoon into the prepared cake tin and bake for 25 mins.

37cake in lined tin

Cool in the tin on a wire rack for 10 mins. Remove from the tin and allow to cool completely on the wire rack. Level the surface with a serrated knife.

7 For the meringue, using an electric hand whisk, whip the egg whites until medium peaks form. Gradually trickle in the remaining sugar whilst continuing to whisk until stiff glossy peaks form.

37stiff glossy peaks

8 To assemble, preheat the oven to 230’C, 210’C fan, gas 8. Spread the top of the cake with the 3 tbsp of the reserved lemon curd mixture. Then invert the bowl of set lemon jelly on top of the cake.

37lemonjelly out of mould

Transfer to a flat baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Spoon over the meringue in swirling motions ensuring the jelly and sponge is completely enclosed. Bake for 4-6 mins until golden (for maximum control use a cooks blow-torch). Remove from the oven and chill for 20  mins to firm up before serving.

37final - slice

#26 FOOD NEWS: Curry week meets chocolate week!

Every monday
We’re not only celebrating one of the nation’s favourite cuisines this week (besides Italian!) with National Curry Week but Chocolate Week also now joins this mid-October party! Here’s my 3-step Britalian guide to making this the hybrid week of all weeks.

1. THE RECIPE

Fruity chocolate ‘pizza’

pizza crop

Pizza gets a chocolate make-over! A delicate chocolate shortbread base, topped with sweetened mascarpone and piled high with fruit will guarantee smiles all round.

strip ingred

125g butter, softened
4 tbsp clear honey
50g caster sugar
150g plain flour
3 tbsp cocoa powder
250g tub mascarpone
142ml double cream
500g chopped and sliced mixed fruit (such as strawberries, kiwi, nectarines, banana – tossed in lemon juice and blackberries).
50g dark chocolate, melted

1 Preheat the oven to 180’C, 160’C fan, gas 4. For the base, beat together the butter and 2tbsp of the honey and the sugar until creamy. Sift over the flour and cocoa powder.

strip 1

2 Stir with a fork until the mixture starts to stick together. Gather the mixture together with your fingertips to form a ball of dough.

dough

3 Place the dough on a large sheet of baking parchment. Roll out to a 30 cm circle. Prick the dough all over with a fork, cut into 6 segments. Lift the baking parchment on to a baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 mins until just firm to the touch; cool.

4 For the topping, place the mascarpone, cream and honey in a bowl; stir until smooth. Spread the mixture over the base. Arrange the prepared fruit on top; drizzle with melted chocolate. Serve within 2 hours.

2. THE BOOK

Cover

Whenever I’m with Southern Italians there’s always chilli oil, dried chilli or chilli powder to hand to sprinkle over anything and everything in front of you. So it wasn’t a surprise when I introduced Giuseppe to the great British tradition of an Indian take-away 9 years ago, you could see a spark of delight and hungry discovery in his eyes.

curry book

The beautiful book; Curry recipe collection by Sainsbury’s, is now firmly one of my favourite cookery books (although as the food editor I might be a teeny weeny bit biased!). Next time the Italians are over I’ll be making the chicken jalfrezi followed by the tropical pannacotta with coconut snaps. I will still, of course, have extra chilli to hand! Available in Sainsbury’s stores for £5.

3. WEAR THE T-SHIRT (Or couture dress!)

CHOCOLATE FASHION SHOW

Love chocolate? Now you can wear it! Stunning couture outfits inspired by chocolatiers such as Lindt, Paul A Young and Fruitful Blooms will be on the runway for the gala evening of  The Chocolate Show on the 16th October.

From the 17th-19th garments will be on display at the Olympia show in a dedicated exhibition from 5pm.

http://www.salonduchocolat.co.uk

CREDITS: Curry book photography; Jonathan Kennedy. I can’t claim the pizza recipe as my own, I tore the original version from Bella mag years ago – it’s an oldie but a goodie!

#24 FOOD NEWS: London design festival, Take 3 ingredients, Weekend cherry tart

Every monday

KEEPING AN EYE ON ALL THINGS BRITALIAN…

Design week strip

A buzzy atmosphere and an explosion of colour created a feast for the senses on a Wednesday night. Part of the London Design Festival, designjunction 2014  made the most of the impressive London Sorting Office with a vibrant exhibition showcasing both cutting-edge design and more traditional brands.

A couple of stands really caught my Britalian eye: Whitbread Wilkinson (designedincolour.com), with it’s colourful bright pink espresso pots and Beef Eater cup, bowl and plate sets – inspired by Disney’s  ‘It’s a Small World’ and the Waterford crystal stand where a craftsman sat quietly giving a live demonstration, creating a clear and sparkling piece using a diamond tipped wheel. Completely absorbed and deep in concentration, you would have thought he was in the calm surrounds of his Irish studio not a pulsating London exhibition! Totally inspiring.

www.thedesignjunction.co.uk

Take 3! Weekday tea: Cannelloni al forno

canelloni

When it’s all too much. Simply pour half a 350g tub essential Waitrose tomato & mascarpone sauce (£1.65) into the base of a small baking dish.

tomato and mascapone

Nestle Waitrose Spinach & ricotta cannelloni (£3.39) in the sauce, spoon over the remaining sauce.

Waitrose fresh pasta cannelloni spinach & ricotta

Sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese and bake according to the cannelloni pack instructions.

Waitrose Davidstow Cornish mature Cheddar cheese, strength 5

Serves 2-3.

Weekend pud: Guten tag cherry tart

Guten tag cherry tart

Mixing up the fusion theme this weekend, my traditional shortcrust tart case held an Italian-style filling topped with Opies cherries: grown in Kent and soaked in German tipple, kirsch.

Ingredients strip

Serves: 6
Prep: 20 mins (plus chilling and cooling time)
Cook: 20 mins

175g plain flour
2 tbsp caster sugar
100g butter, chilled and cut into cubes
2 egg yolks
250g ricotta cheese
3 tbsp icing sugar
300ml double cream
1/2 390g jar Opies cherries in kirsch, drained, kirsch reserved
15g flaked almonds, lightly toasted

1 For the pastry, sift the flour in a large bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

2 Add the egg yolks and 2tbsp cold water and stir with a fork. Bring it together with your hands to make a dough. Knead gently on a lightly floured surface until smooth. wrap in cling film and chill for 20 mins.

Pastry strip

3 Preheat the oven to 200’C, 180’C fan, gas 6. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and use to line a 20cm loose-based tart tin. Trim the edge and prick the base with a fork. Line with parchment and fill with baking beans and bake for 15 mins. Remove the beans and paper and bake for a further 5 mins until golden. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

4 Meanwhile, make the filling, put the ricotta in a bowl with icing sugar and 4-6 tbsp of the reserved kirsch and beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk the cream until it forms soft peaks. Fold the cream into the ricotta mixture.

Filling steps strips

5 Spoon the ricotta filling into the pastry case and level the surface. Spoon the drained cherries over the top, then scatter over the almonds.

Cook’s tip

For a great shortcut, use ready made pastry. For an all-out cheat use a ready made tart case!